What happens on the day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in? | Sunday Observer

What happens on the day Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are sworn in?

17 January, 2021

President-elect Joe Biden will not officially make his move to the White House until inauguration day - a political parade of sorts, when the Democrat and his Vice-President Kamala Harris take the oath of office.

From Covid-19 protocols, to security concerns, to an appearance from Lady Gaga, here’s everything you need to know about the big day.


The inauguration is the formal ceremony that marks the start of a new presidency, and it takes place in Washington DC.

The only required feature is that the president-elect recite the presidential oath of office: “I do solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

Once he utters these words, Biden will then take his place as the 46th president and the inauguration will be complete (but that’s not all - celebrations follow).

Kamala Harris will become vice-president once she takes the oath of office, which usually happens just before the president is sworn in.

By law, inauguration day is 20 January. Opening remarks are usually scheduled for around 11:30 EST (16:30 GMT) and Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will be sworn in at midday.

Biden will move into the White House later in the day - his home for the next four years.

Presidential inaugurations typically involve detailed security plans, but even more so now, after a pro-Trump mob stormed the US Capitol on January 6.

The FBI has warned of armed protests at state capitols across the US and in Washington DC in the days leading up to the inauguration, prompting officials to ramp up security and close off large sections of the city.

A rehearsal for the ceremony due to take place on Sunday was postponed due to security concerns, Politico reported, and is now scheduled to happen on Monday.

A planned 90-minute train ride by Mr Biden and his team from his offices in Delaware to Washington on Monday has also been shelved amid security fears, the Associated Press reported.

Biden has asked former President Barack Obama’s counter-terrorism adviser, Lisa Monaco, to work as a temporary adviser on security for the inauguration. Ms Monaco is Biden’s nominee for deputy attorney general.

Washington DC is already under a state of emergency - an order put in place by Mayor Muriel Bowser amid the riots at Capitol Hill - and will remain that way through inauguration. On Friday, she also noted that the inauguration is not the only location that has been the subject of online threats.

The Department of Homeland Security has extended the special security designation for the inauguration to one week before the ceremony, to allow for more preparation. The Secret Service has taken command of the security plans, backed up by some 15,000 National Guard troops, in addition to thousands of police officers.

Agent Matt Miller, who is leading the security effort on behalf of the Secret Service, told reporters on Friday that planning for the event has been going on for over a year.

And while Mr Biden has insisted on taking the oath of office outside, as is tradition, attendance will be scaled back. It’s become customary for the outgoing president to watch the next in line be sworn in, which can make things awkward.

This year, it will be a different type of awkward - the outgoing president will be a no-show. “To all of those who have asked, I will not be going to the Inauguration on January 20th,” Mr Trump tweeted on January 8.

It comes shortly after the president committed to an “orderly” transition of power to a “new administration” - the closest he has come to publicly conceding the race to Mr Biden.

Some of his supporters had already taken it a step further, planning a virtual “second inauguration” for Mr Trump on the same day (and time) that Mr Biden takes office. More than 68,000 people have said on Facebook they will attend the online event to show their support for Mr Trump.

Vice-President Mike Pence, however, has said that he will attend.

When Mr Trump was sworn in, Hillary Clinton joined her husband, former President Bill Clinton, at the inauguration - just two months after her election defeat and a bitter campaign against Mr Trump.

Only three Presidents - John Adams, John Quincy Adams and Andrew Johnson - have actively chosen to sit out their successor’s inaugurations, and none in the last century.

In normal circumstances, Washington DC would see hundreds of thousands of inauguration revellers flock to the city, swarming the National Mall and selling out hotels - an estimated two million came when President Obama was sworn in for his first term in 2009.

But this year, the celebration’s size will be “extremely limited”, the Biden team has said, and it has urged Americans to avoid travelling to the capital, a call that has been repeated by DC authorities following the storming of Congress.

Mr Biden and Ms Harris will still take their oaths in front of the US Capitol, overlooking the Mall (a tradition that started with President Ronald Reagan in 1981) but viewing stands that had been constructed along the parade route are being taken down.

Much of the two-mile long (3.2km) National Mall park will also be closed to the public.

In the past, up to 200,000 tickets were up for grabs to attend the official ceremony, but this year, with infections still surging across the US, only around 1,000 tickets will be available.

This year, there will still be a “pass in review” ceremony - a traditional part of the peaceful transfer of power, where the new commander in chief inspects the troops, but instead of the usual parade down Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House, organisers say they will host a a “virtual parade” across the US.

Selecting a date four months from the November general election made sense at the time given how long it took for votes from across the country to trickle in to the capital. But this also meant the lame duck period - the time when an outgoing president is still in office - was quite long.